|Image from WTSP.com|
As of January 1, 2019, Hillsborough County will have the highest sales tax rate in the state of Florida.
A tax hike is a tax hike is a tax hike.
But did All for Transportation use the word "tax" or "tax hike" during their $4 million tax hike campaign?
All for Transportation's website states:
All for Transportation is the community-led effort that put a referendum on the November ballot asking voters to fund a wide range of solutions to our County’s greatest shortcoming – traffic congestion and lack of transit options.All for Transportation sold their 30 year $16 Billion tax hike as a transportation plan to fix the transportation issue in Hillsborough County.
The Eye has 14 All for Transportation mailers and not one of them has the word "tax" on them.
All for Transportation put a 30 year $16 Billion tax hike on the ballot they refused to call a tax. They sold their massive tax hike as a "plan" that will fix and reduce traffic congestion in Hillsborough County.
Below are copies of some of All for Transportation mailers they bombarded voters mailboxes almost daily before the election. Nowhere do they mention or use the word "tax".
We compared the ballot summary language of previous tax hike referendums in Tampa Bay.
The proposed Go Hillsborough tax hike referendum that Hillsborough County commissioners considered but did not place on the ballot in 2016 stated (emphasis mine):
Fund countywide transportation system improvements for better roads and transit choices with 1/2% sales surtax
Do you favor transportation improvements throughout Hillsborough County, includingTampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace, Brandon, Carrollwood and Sun City, including projects (construction, maintenance and operation) that:
Improve roads and bridges
Expand public transit options
Computerize traffic light systems
Enhance express and neighborhood bus services
Relieve rush hour bottlenecks
Make walking and biking safer
funded with 1/2% sales surtax levied for ____ years and deposited in an audited trust fund with independent oversight?
A 1/2% sales surtax is estimated to raise approximately $117 million annually or $234million in the first two years. The revenues will be shared by Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners, incorporated cities of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace, and HART (Hillsborough Transit Authority), with revenues to the County and the Cities distributed using a population based formula. All funds must be used as provided in an approved Community Transportation Plan.
Yes NoThe Greenlight Pinellas rail tax hike referendum that Pinellas County commissioners placed on the 2014 ballot stated:
Levy of Countywide One Percent Sales Surtax to Fund Greenlight Pinellas Plan for Public Transit.
Summary: Shall the improvement, construction, operation, maintenance and financing of public transit benefitting Pinellas County, including an expanded bus system with bus rapid transit, increased frequency and extended hours, local passenger rail and regional connections be funded by levying a one percent sales surtax from January 1, 2016 until repealed, with the proceeds deposited in a dedicated trust fund?The rail tax hike referendum aka Moving Hillsborough Forward that Hillsborough County commissioners placed on the 2010 ballot stated:
___ YES, for the 1% sales surtax
___ NO, against the 1% sales surtax
COUNTYWIDE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM CONSTRUCTION MAINTENANCE OPERATIONS THROUGH THE LEVY OF A ONE PERCENT SALES SURTAXBelow is the language used by All for Transportation on their citizen petition tax hike charter amendment they got placed on the 2018 ballot.
Shall transportation improvements throughout Hillsborough County, Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City be funded by levying a one percent transportation sales surtax from January 1, 2011 until repealed, deposited into a dedicated trust fund, all spending reviewed by an independent oversight committee of citizens and experts, with 75% spent on transit, including local rail and an expanded bus system for express, local and neighborhood service, and 25% spent on improving roads and other transportation projects?
____ FOR the one percent (1 %) sales surtax
____ AGAINST the one percent (1 %) sales surtax
BALLOT TITLE: Funding for Countywide Transportation and Road Improvements by County Charter Amendment
BALLOT SUMMARY: Should transportation improvements be funded throughout Hillsborough County, including Tampa, Plant City, Temple Terrace, Brandon, Town ‘n’ Country, and Sun City, including projects that: Improve roads and bridges, Expand public transit options, Fix potholes, Enhance bus services, Relieve rush hour bottlenecks, Improve intersections, and Make walking and biking safer,
By amending the County Charter to enact a one-cent sales surtax levied for 30 years and deposited in an audited trust fund with independent oversight?
___ Yes ___ NThe county is required to include a financial impact statement and that statement was placed on the ballot initiative before the Y N.
All for Transportation did not use the word tax in the title of their tax hike referendum. They refused to call the tax to be levied what it actually is - a 1% sales surtax. It is not a one-cent sales surtax.
Tax rates are never specified in dollars and cents, they are specified in percentages. Section (1) (b) of Florida Statute 212.055 which governs the transportation surtax states "The rate shall be up to 1 percent."
There is no way to equate a one-cent tax to a one percent tax. On a $100 purchase, a 1% tax is one dollar while a 1 cent tax is one cent.
Any tax hike referendum should use the same tax rate language allowed by the state statute that governs the tax and empowers the county to implement the tax. All the other proposed transportation sales surtax referendums drafted by elected county commissioners made it crystal clear to voters they were voting on a tax and its specific tax percentage.
All for Transportation did not follow such ballot language. Perhaps that is another legal question that legal minds need to answer.
Legal or not, it reflects a level of dishonesty. A one-cent tax sounds much less intrusive to one's wallet than 1 percent. All for Transportation did not want voters to clearly understand that raising the sales tax rate one percent for 30 years is a $16 BILLION tax increase.
Using the one-cent description enabled All for Transportation's pro tax hike media accomplices to parrot them. The media accomplices parroted the one-cent in the gobs of free earned media they provided All for Transportation for what is actually a 1 percent tax hike.
Search Tampa Bay Times reporting on All for Transportation. They parroted the one cent verbiage in instead of reporting that the referendum was raising the sales tax rate by 1%, which is a 14% tax increase. Now after the election, the Times is already backpedalling on what they previously reported.
Vinik's editorial in support of the tax hike he was funding looks like it was written by All for Transportation. His editorial, published in the Tampa Bay Times that he bailed out, parroted All for Transportation by dishonestly stating "the cost is a one penny sales tax increase".
All for Transportation's dishonest campaign began with the ballot language they used written by a few downtown transit advocates over drinks.
With a campaign war chest of $4 million funded by special interests, All for Transportation hit the campaign trail to never mention their tax hike referendum was a massive 30 year $16 Billion tax hike.
In their expensive, glossy mailers, All for Transportation made lots of promises and claims to reduce traffic congestion with no evidence to back up such claims (post for another day). Intentionally missing was what voters were actually voting on, a massive 30 year tax hike.
Even now after the election, All for Transportation refuses to call their tax hike a tax. The All for Transportation FB page continues to dishonestly describe their $16 Billion tax hike as a "plan" - that as we posted here does not exist.
All for Transportation refuses to call their tax hike a tax hike.
But a tax hike is a tax hike is a tax hike.
And now Hillsborough County has the unfortunate distinction of having the highest sales tax rate in the state.